Chris & Carla

Nights Between Stations: Live in Thessaloniki 1995

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As Eckman describes in his entertaining liner notes, a planned show on the Life Full of Holes tour in Thessaloniki, Greece (an earlier date on that tour can be heard on Ljubljana) fell apart due to technical problems. The duo went off with friends for drinks and, upon hearing some local musicians playing traditional Greek music, came up with the idea of a collaborative performance with other local musicians next time through. Nights Between Stations is the fascinating result, proof that one of Chris and Carla's key strengths, in or out of the Walkabouts, is their open-mindedness towards musical inspiration and work from all over the map. The songlist, drawing on the usual mix of Walkabouts songs, Chris and Carla numbers and cover versions, including a fine take on Townes Van Zandt's "Lungs," is a winner through and through, while the performances are as sharp as one could wish. Chris and Carla both sound great, while the seven man band backing them constantly brings new inspiration and surprise to (in some cases) familiar numbers. What initially seems like an exercise for the sake of it, though, swiftly becomes a fascinating combination of musical styles song for song, pitched somewhere between the Walkabouts' blend of influences and some explicitly Greek musical touches. "Prisoner of Texas," a rarity only found on the vinyl version of New West Motel, receives some fascinating violin work from Fotis Famelos that initially sounds like a steel guitar before launching into music Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three could easily sympathize with. His work adds further color to many other songs, such as "Storm Crazy" and "Velvet Fog," while his bandmates achieve the same gentle catharsis the Walkabouts normally reach for. Manolis Famelos adds mandolin to a great version of the Walkabouts song "Sweet Revenge," while the final cut, "Sand and Gravel," concludes the performances on a truly strong note.

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